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Israel to expropriate 400 hectares of West Bank, army says
A picture shows under construction buildings at at Har Homa Israeli settlement near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, 23 January 2008.Jerusalem - Israel announced plans on Sunday to expropriate 400 hectares of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area in the south of the occupied West Bank, the military said. "On the instructions of the political echelon... 4,000 dunams at Gevaot is declared as state land," the army department charged with administering civil affairs in occupied territory said, adding that concerned parties have 45 days to appeal. It said that the step stemmed from political decisions taken after the June killing of three Israeli teenagers snatched from a roadside in the same area, known to Israelis as Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Israel has named three Palestinians from the southern West Bank city of Hebron as being behind the murders. The Etzion settlements council welcomed Sunday's announcement, and said it was the prelude to expansion of the current Gevaot settlement. "Our response is to strengthen settlement". "By declaring another 4,000 dunams as state land, the Israeli government stabs and the moderate Palestinian forces in the back, proving again that violence delivers Israeli concessions while non-violence results in settlement expansion," it said. Peace Now official Hagit Ofran told AFP that the legal basis for such land confiscation was an 1858 ruling by the region's Ottoman rulers.

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